A New Vision


In fall 2016, Shayla Bott became the new direc- tor of Theatre Ballet. With extensive experience, professional achievements, and unique artistic vision, Bott has made and will continue to make valuable contributions to the ballet program. “Ballet satisfies my right and left brain,” she says. “I am artistic, but I also tend to be organized and pragmatic. Ballet’s artistry and dedication to technique resonated with me at a young age.”

Growing up in Orem, Utah, Bott began teaching ballet in private studios at age 13. She studied at the University of Utah, where she received a BFA in ballet with an emphasis in performance and an MFA in ballet music, choreography, and ballet pedagogy.

Bott has collaborated with dancers and companies from around the nation. Her work has been performed at prestigious events and has won many awards, including the National Choreographic Recognition Award from Regional Dance America in Montréal in 2012 for her composition “Weaker” and first-place honors in Utah Regional Ballet’s Choreography Design Competition for her pieces “Liquid Sound,” “Flash,” and “Juncture.”

During her time at BYU, Bott has been working with Theatre Ballet students on their show Storytime: An Evening of Ballet Classics. “The experience Shayla is bringing to Theatre Ballet is elevating us as dancers as she’s teaching us more diverse and challenging techniques,” says dancer Lauren Halversen. “I have been pushed to learn classical ballet and contemporary ballet.”

Bott has endeavored to find new pieces that will both improve the students as dancers and bring something unique and exciting to BYU’s ballet group. Bott explains, “My main initiative is to bring great historical ballets into our repertoire in order to support the students’ development as artists and technicians to further prepare them for their future careers, while also ensuring that we are presenting the highest quality repertoire to our audiences.”

The show Storytime: An Evening of Ballet Classics will feature excerpts from Sleeping Beauty, Paquita, Coppélia, and also Gerald Arpino’s Birthday Variations, which Bott received permission from the Gerald Arpino Foundation to perform.

Theatre Ballet will continue its tradition of holding a Prince and Princess Party, in which audience members—children and adults alike—can interact and dance with the princes and princesses from the show and also dress up as their favorite fairytale characters. During spring 2017 Theatre Ballet will perform at BYU and in Evanston, Wyoming, and in 2018 they will tour to New Mexico and Texas.

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Shayla Bott is Theatre Ballet’s new artistic director.

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Theatre Ballet holds a Q&A after a performance at Fremont Elementary School in Merced, California.


The Tango Returns Home


BYU’s Ballroom Dance Company is taking more than two to tango on tour this summer—it’s taking an entire dance troupe. Starting on April 29, the company will spend three weeks performing in Chile and Argentina.

Included in the company’s new award-winning show, Swing ’n’ Sway, is a tango, “which we hope will be well received by the people of Argentina,” says director Curt Holman. The Argentine tango has become popular throughout the world, and yet the people of Argentina remain true to the tango’s roots. “A lot of the younger generation goes out dancing several nights of the week,” says BYU dancer Stephen Rallison. “The tango is also a well-known and respected art form for their people.”

In preparation for the tour, the Ballroom Dance Company’s members are taking a class to learn more about South American cultures. A few members of the company who have lived in Chile and Argentina while serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are excitedly contacting old friends and dusting off their Spanish to be ready to help their teammates communicate. Rallison, who served in Argentina, says, “I’ve also been researching more about the other parts of the country that I haven’t been to.” The team anticipates excellent food, art, and connections with the people of South America.

This tour will provide unique opportunities to strengthen relationships between BYU and various communities, governments, and churches. By working with the charity Coaniquem BCF in Santiago, Chile, the Ballroom Dance Company’s performances there will raise funds for children who have been victims of fire.

In Argentina, the municipal governments have been in close contact with the company to help secure venues for performances. Additionally, the Catholic Church has offered the Auditorio de Belgrano in Buenos Aires to the Ballroom Dance Company for their performances in the capital city.

The seed for this developing relationship with the religious communities in Argentina was planted when the Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish communities invited The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to participate in a humanitarian project in 2016. The Church brought resources, such as their satellite system, which helped coordinate the countrywide service. “[The religious communities] were very impressed,” says Rex Barrington, director of BYU Performing Arts Management. “It helped bring the service together and build relationships that weren’t there before.” The BYU group will be able to enhance relations with these religious communities through continued positive interaction.

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BYU Ballroom Dance Company members Clayton Noyes and Lexi Ruffell perform in the Spanish paso doble number “El Matador.”


Brazil’s Diversity


Young Ambassadors will take its 2017 extended tour to Brazil beginning on April 29. The troupe will start in Manaus, a city located up north in the state of Amazonas, which encompasses much of the Amazon rainforest. After Manaus, the group will travel east to the coast and will perform in Belém, Fortaleza, Recife, Salvador, and Rio de Janeiro and conclude their tour in São Paulo.

The members of Young Ambassadors are excited for this opportunity to serve, learn, and share their talents. “Each touring experience is unique,” says Young Ambassadors performer Taylor Stanger. “We are given the amazing opportunity to meet and serve so many people no matter where we travel.”

Stanger and the other Portuguese-speaking cast member, Scott Hendrickson, served a two-year mission in Brazil while representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I already know that this will be an emotional experience—returning to the country I served in to perform for the people I grew to love,” Stanger says. “Scott and I will be doing a lot of translating both ways. Knowing the culture and language also helps in forming strong bonds with anyone we come in contact with. Any effort to understand someone’s culture or way of life is appreciated and shows that we care.”

Young Ambassadors will be premiering its new show, Welcome Home, in another country for the first time. Welcome Home presents the magic and surprise of growing up, the adventure of learning, and the warm feelings that only home brings. This musical revue has stellar Broadway show tunes, including songs from Hamilton, Footloose, Singin’ in the Rain, In the Heights, The Lion King, and much more. “The talent and energy in the Young Ambassadors shows have always come through, but the new show brings an additional spiritual element to it,” says Hendrickson. “In [Welcome Home], we all play a major role in transmitting the message and telling a story. There is not one person more important than the others in the show.”

The year’s theme for Young Ambassadors is “Live to Give.” Alongside their eight performances, the group will provide community outreaches and service to the locals of the cities they visit. This service will include performing in public schools, working with Mormon Helping Hands, and donating food to low-income hospitals. “Every moment from sunrise to well after sunset [will be] dedicated to the communities in which we serve,” Stanger says. “Each day [will be] filled with several cultural outreaches, service projects, hospital visits, orphanage visits, firesides, and more—all before we perform our show once or even twice that evening.”

The group will also have opportunities to meet other artists and learn more about the country. In the city of Salvador, Young Ambassadors will meet with Olodum, a group that performs in one of the blocks for Salvador’s carnival. Olodum fights social discrimination, builds the self-esteem of Afro-Brazilians, and promotes civil-rights equality. Olodum’s band has performed with national and international musicians, including Michael Jackson in his music video “They Don’t Care About Us.” They also have a school and a theater. Olodum will teach Young Ambassadors music and dances that are traditional parts of the diverse culture of Brazil. “The objective of the tour is to do as much good as possible,” says artist manager Shane Wright. “No matter what we do though, we will learn a lot more from the Brazilian people than we will be able to teach.”

Additionally, Young Ambassadors will have the chance to explore some of Brazil’s natural wonders. In the city of Manaus, they will tour by boat the Rio Negro of the Amazon rainforest, and in Rio de Janeiro they will visit the famous Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) and the Christ the Redeemer statue. “The natural beauty of Brazil is unparalleled,” says Hendrickson. “Brazil is such a diverse country in and of itself, and there are cultures there that I have only heard about.”

Members of Young Ambassadors say they are most excited about the people, food, and art that they will encounter. Hendrickson explains, “There is an underlying passion in everything [Brazilian people] do. And that passion and love of life can be felt the minute you step foot in the country.”

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Young Ambassadors members Jessica Jensen and Carlos Garcia perform in “Circle of Life,” from The Lion King.

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Cooper Sutton displays tap dancing skills in Young Ambassadors’ rendition of the famous number “Singin’ in the Rain.”


Bringing the Joy of Cultures Through Dance


International Folk Dance Ensemble is excited to share the joy of dance as they travel in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam this summer. The group will have the opportunity to embrace the different cultures of Southeast Asia as they visit historic sites, participate in dance exchanges, raise money for local humanitarian needs, and present their show Journey.

The enthusiasm of the ensemble is tangible. “I’m excited to go,” dancer Christian Halversen says. “We so often share all the different tastes of the world with domestic residents. Sharing our dancing with the people of Southeast Asia will be thrilling.” Echoing Halversen, dancer Brandon Carter says, “Dance brings me joy, and by sharing that gift, the joy increases. I can’t wait to feel that joy by dancing for the peoples of Southeast Asia.”

The ensemble’s first stop on tour will be in Thailand, where they will work with Rotary clubs, charity foundations, and friends to fundraise for local needs. The ensemble will also perform in the Thailand Cultural Center in Bangkok. Artist manager Rex
Barrington says, “We will be performing for wonderful friends who are centered on carrying out meaningful projects for their communities.”

Next, Folk Dance Ensemble will visit Cambodia. The group will participate in a conference of almost 500 young single adults for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Later the group will visit many beautiful sites, including Angkor Thom, a Khmer temple built in the late 12th century. They will also raise funds for a local women’s hospital through the Tabitha Foundation. “That particular endeavor is a wonderful way to connect with the community and help with local needs,” says artistic director Jeanette Geslison.

For their final stop, the ensemble will travel to Vietnam, where they will participate in cultural exchanges with local dance schools and universities. During these exchanges, the ensemble will teach and share their heritage as well as learn from the students about Vietnamese customs, music, and dance. “Sharing a dance from your culture is like sharing a piece of yourself,” says dancer Amanda Alley. “Dance allows us to communicate with people without [speaking a] language, and it always creates a special bond.”

As they tour throughout Southeast Asia, the ensemble is eager to show their appreciation for Indonesian culture in their new number, “Saman,” in which the dancers sit in a long line and create rhythms with their hands. Originating from the Gayo people of Aceh Province and traditionally enacted at national and religious celebrations, saman unifies Indonesian villages as the people exchange renditions with one another. Dancer Heidy Comish says, “‘Saman’ is very different from anything else that we perform. I love that we get to perform this Indonesian number for the people of Southeast Asia to show them that we care about all of the [world’s customs] and are doing our very best to represent them well.”

In addition to spreading joy to the people they meet on tour, the ensemble has great power to transform the lives of its own members. “Being on International Folk Dance Ensemble has been the biggest blessing in my life,” says dancer Carissa Moser. “Here I have found a better understanding and appreciation for the world and people around me. . . . I get the opportunity to learn about and perform a wide variety of dances from multiple countries and cultures around the world. Being able to show some American dances is our way of thanking [the people of Southeast Asia] for sharing their culture with us while also proudly representing our own cultural heritage.”

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Marina Silva leads her fellow Folk Dancers in the Haitian “Papa Loko.”

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Folk Dance member Wesley Valdez performs in “Saman,” from Indonesia.

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Folk Dancers (left to right) Amanda Alley, Jacob Madsen, Eryn Hunt, Brandon Carter, Rebecca Kiser, Taylon Mann, Victoria Ringer, and Abram Allred strike a pose in the American clog “Western Wildfire.”

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Ken Nukaya, a member of International Folk Dance Ensemble, dances in “Red and Green,” which celebrates Chinese culture.

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Folk Dance members Breanna Daniels and Branson Handy perform “Charleston.”


Renewing Friendships in the Philippines


Brigham Young University’s Chamber Orchestra is looking forward to traveling where no BYU performing arts group has gone for 20 years: the Philippines. After touring to China in 2011 and to Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, and Turkey in 2014, Chamber Orchestra will visit Cebu, Bohol, Palawan, and Manila in May 2017, bringing with them the beauty of music and a helping hand. Artist manager Justin Smith says, “As a university we are excited to go there again to renew friendships and build new relationships.”

Throughout the tour, Chamber Orchestra will take part in service projects, participate in educational visits, enjoy sightseeing, and perform with special guest performers for diverse crowds. “I’m so excited to be able to experience a new culture and get to know the people of the Philippines,” says violinist Hillary Dalton. “I’m also thrilled to be able to share music with them, which is special to me. I feel like [sharing music will] be a way to express myself to them when we aren’t able to communicate verbally.”

On tour, the orchestra hopes to make a lasting difference through their performances by working with local leaders and community members to raise funds for humanitarian efforts. “Every tour is an opportunity to use concerts to bring together local leaders in projects that benefit the community directly,” explains conductor Kory Katseanes. “What we are trying to do is bring people together in a like-minded effort for humanitarian causes.”

In addition to service concerts, Chamber Orchestra will also perform a variety of pieces in market squares, cultural centers, and theatres. “All of the music is so inspiring,” says Dalton. “Each [piece has] something special that really touches me.” Fellow violinist Adrienne Williams says, “I am looking forward to playing all of our music. . . . Professor Katseanes has an uncanny ability to always organize programs with great music that is also very enjoyable and engaging to both the audience and the orchestra.”

The crowning moment of Chamber Orchestra’s tour will be the final performance in Manila, where they will join with Broadway star Lea Salonga, a native of the Philippines. This will be the second time in 2017 that Salonga will perform with Chamber Orchestra; in April, Chamber Orchestra will host and accompany Salonga at BYU. In May they will take the stage together again at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex. Salonga is best known for voicing the Disney princesses Jasmine and Mulan; for her Broadway roles in Miss Saigon, Les Misérables, and Allegiance; and for being a celebrity coach on The Voice of the Philippines.

“I am thrilled that we have the opportunity to perform with Lea Salonga,” says Williams. “It’s always such a humbling and inspiring experience to perform with such great talent.”

As members of Chamber Orchestra prepare for their upcoming tour, they are focusing on the people they will meet, the places they will see, and the music they will share. “The goal of the School of Music is to seek truth in great music, and I would say that sums up why we do what we do pretty well,” says cellist Pono Santos. “We are going to serve and to help build connections between us and the people but also between the members [of the Church] and their communities. As a touring orchestra, we get to be a family and we get to go meet our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. And as always when serving, I’m sure that we will come home changed . . . because of what we learn from these people.”

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Chamber Orchestra fills the Liszt Academy in Budapest, Hungary, with music.

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Dr. Kory Katseanes conducts Chamber Orchestra in Venice, Italy, during the group’s 2014 tour.

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Chamber Orchestra performs in Ankara, Turkey.